They flew red hammer n’ sickle pennants on every vertical thing in every main street last week. The flags are there still, but wilting. They painted the walls in many colours, some of them after the fashion of some European graffiti I’ve seen (tubular and thick piled-up lettering on saturated background colours), proclaiming the First National Convention of the CITU, in Bangalore.

The paintings will live on until the sun, rain, and wind have peeled them. The walls of the Palace Grounds — venue of the convention — are similarly painted, with also the portraits of comrades Che and Marx. The caption to Che asks the worker to “rise with indignation”. At the entrance to the venue, the painting is of workmen (yellow silhouettes on red) marching to the call to revolution, bearing flags held high and leaning forward.

I am reminded of Dr Zhivago, the movie. I’ve not read Boris Pasternak’s book.

Everything went off peacefully, I think, because no paper mentioned anything of the event. Nothing wrong in this democratic exercise, but I am apprehensive at all this show in red, and am nervous, knowing that some of our young workmen who were recently initiated into the union, and who are fresh from signing a settlement with the management, have spent the week there.

But I do know that CITU had been claiming in the run-up that two hundred thousand delegates would attend, some from the former communist nations. How many did come? What did our workmen learn from them? How will they translate their learning into action? How soon?


Image: Brot Mandel